COURTESY OF LES ABATTOIRS, TOULOUSE
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Les Abattoirs, Toulouse. An art cathedral in Occitanie

Former slaughterhouse of the city the building exemplifies the industrial architecture of the 19th-century

The slaughterhouse

Former slaughterhouse of the city, Les Abattoirs Toulouse is a building that exemplifies the industrial architecture of the 19th century. Urbain Vitry has been the architect of this building between 1825 and 1832. Vitry has been a very important architect for the city, for which he realized also public buildings, such as the Toulouse’s Observatory and the old Medicine school of the city. He was well-known for his Italian style neo-classical architecture, which is characterized by attention on sobriety, and use of the best local materials. His special mark was the use, as decorative motif, of white stone bricks.

In the 90s, the association which planned to create a space for contemporary art, started looking for a building that could fit their purpose. In 1995 the old slaughterhouse was selected. Antoine Stinco and Remi Papillaut were choosen as the architects for the transformation of the building into an art museum.

They intended to leave the original neo-classical mark form, in order to restore a new vision of the semi-circular space, aiming to become a cathedral for contemporary art. The renovation work started in 1997, at the same time as the artistic installation by Sandrine Curti called La Maison Bleu. Black and white cows were painted against a blue background. But as the renovation evolved, the installation did too and the cows turned red or yellow on an abstract background, and at some point, near the end of the renovation, the cows started disappearing one by one revealing the new Abattoirs.

These artworks were a way to hide the building while it was renovated, nevertheless there was the intention to point out the will of the museum in construction to be a link between the past and the future, and a museum open to the outside and to the citizen of Toulouse. The renovation works ended in June 2000.

The sections

The complex is formed by three different buildings. At the center of the compound you will find the museum, with the bookshop, the facility part and the exhibitions space. The museum has a permanent display split in two sections. The modern collection is focused on artists up to 1950. The collection is composed by the Anthony Demey gift and the Centre Pompidou gift of one portion of their Daniel Cordier gift. One of the most fascinating masterpiece of this collection is “The Remains of Minotaur in a harlequin costume”. This artwork has been created by Pablo Picasso and Luis Fernandez in 1936 for the pièce “Le 14 Juillet” by Romain Rolland. Due to its fragility, this artwork can be displayed for only six months a year, in a special room made for its dimensions.

On the sides of the buildings we can find the administration’s offices, the multimedia library and workshops site, and the visitors hall. In the semicircular building, behind the museum, a bigger area is dedicated to workshops. In the same building, you can find the restaurant, l’Hèmycycle, named after its architectural shape, with a kitchen mixed of traditional taste and a look at contemporary cuisine.

The temporary exhibitions usually take place in The Nef, a proper nave for this industrial and art cathedral. This is the central part of the museum, high and bright, characterized by the red of the bricks of which the compound is made. In this central part you can also find the bookshop, with more than 3,500 titles with a focus on modern and contemporary art issues. There are also several children’s books and international magazines.

The museum’s events and performances program made the museum became alive, a new meeting point and landmark of contemporary art in France. Outside the building is the Sculpture Park, with sixteen artworks that extend the museum outside its rooms.

The other section is focused on the contemporary and consists in diving into a new perspective of today’s art. Split into themes, the section aims to give a new critic approach to the introduction of of organic matter, a new reality given us by art, the image and its diffusion; there is also a section on writing and narratives as collective and individual matters.

Deep See Blue Surrounding You

France is the starting point of the Laure Prouvost journey of her installation “Deep See Blue Surrounding You/Vois Ce Bleu Profond Te Fondre”, but Venice is the arrival of this sui generis road trip. An artistic milestone that made France choose to be represented by Laure Prouvost in the 58° Venice Biennale. In the pavilion within the Biennale’s Giardini, the artist takes us, after a bucolic walking and an underground entrance, in a world full of light and made by water. This installation could be seen as an environmental denounce, with all the technology that invades the water and its citizen, and especially like conjunction between reality and the main installation. “Deep See Blue Surrounding You” is a fictional movie about the links or distances between generations and identities, with an idea of disconnection, incomprehension and discrepancy. A journey through languages and surrealism towards an ideal elsewhere. The entire work is seen as a road trip, that starts form the north Paris’ suburbia, through magical places, such as the Palais du Facteur Cheval, an ideal place, that is like a castle of an ancient marine city.

The journey goes on to Marseille, the city of the immigrants, where, with a dive in the Mediterranean sea, we leave to get to Venice and to enter in the pavillon where we are seated, watching the movie. Venice is not only the destination, but also the work’s inspiration, as a city made above water and from floating water, composed by facades, backstages, but also languages and cultures. The first stop of this tour is the Toulouse’s Les Abattoirs, where the work was shown complete in January until May 2020.


76 Allées Charles de Fitte

Toulouse, France

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